Pharmacy technicians perform a number of duties – from filling prescriptions to answering phone calls – and generally operate under the direct supervision of pharmacists. This is primarily a safety measure as pharmacists must review all prescriptions before they are given to patients.1 However, a new trend in pharmacy technology may soon allow technicians to work with less supervision.
Telepharmacy is a new telecommunications technology allowing pharmacists to remotely supervise pharmacy technicians in real time. It’s becoming particularly popular in rural and other “medically underserved” areas that may not have consistent access to a pharmacist. It also can free up time for pharmacists to spend more time with patients providing drug information and answering questions while pharmacy technicians perform clinical services.2
There has been a great deal of discussion in recent years about whether or not pharmacy technicians even require the direct supervision of a pharmacist at all times. The goal is always to optimize patient care, and proponents of expanding the duties of pharmacy techs argue that busy pharmacists are unable to give patients all of the clinical pharmacy services they need, and that these duties could easily be performed by a pharmacy tech.3
However, critics of expanding the role of pharmacy technicians argue that it should be the pharmacist’s role to deliver patient-centered clinical care. Having well-trained pharmacy technicians helps the pharmacist to optimize his or her time, however, they should continue to play a supportive role rather than completely replacing pharmacists.4
So will pharmacy technicians soon be able to work unsupervised? It seems unlikely, although technology like telepharmacy does appear to be making it possible for pharmacy technicians to expand their role in providing optimal patient care.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘What Pharmacy Technicians Do,’ March 29, 2012 – http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-2
2 Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, ‘Rural Health-Systems Benefit From Remote Pharmacy Technician Supervision,’ May 17, 2012 – http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rural-health-systems-benefit-from-remote-pharmacy-technician-supervision-151900705.html
3 Horon, Karen, U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, ‘Should Pharmacy Technicians Provide Clinical Services or Perform Patient Care Activities in Areas Without a Pharmacist? The PRO Side,’ Sept.-Oct. 2010 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2999373/#top
4 Gorman, Sean, U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, ‘Should Pharmacy Technicians Provide Clinical Services or Perform Patient Care Activities in Areas Without a Pharmacist? The CON Side,’ Sept.-Oct. 2010 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2999373/#top